Panera goes for the big gulp with revamped monthly beverage subscription

Building on the success of its coffee subscription, the fast casual launched the $10.99-a-month Unlimited Sip Club, which offers 26 self-serve beverages.
Panera Bread
Photo courtesy of Panera Bread

More than two years after its debut, Panera Bread’s coffee subscription program is getting a major upgrade.

The all-day fast-casual chain on Tuesday announced the debut of its Unlimited Sip Club, which gives subscribers (nearly) bottomless access to all 26 of Panera’s self-serve beverages for a flat fee of $10.99 per month (plus tax).

The subscription includes hot and iced coffee; several varieties of hot and iced teas; Agave Lemonade; Pepsi-Cola fountain beverages; and Panera’s new line of Charged Lemonades.

Unlimited Sip Club subscribers must be members of the MyPanera loyalty program, which had 46.6 million members at the end of 2021. Those who sign up for the program by May 6 will receive free subscriptions through July 4, the chain said.

“What we learned through the coffee subscription program is that it worked for the guest and it worked for our business,” said Sara Burnett, VP of food beliefs, sustainability and PR at Panera. “We can take this coffee subscription model and translate it to the all-day guest and be able to meet their needs for all dayparts.”

Panera’s coffee subscription, which launched just before the pandemic began in 2020, has shown some impressive results since its inception.

By the end of last year, the $8.99-per-month program had more than 600,000 subscribers, and those customers are truly Panera super-fans, according to 2021 data from the chain:

  • Coffee subscribers had eight times more monthly visits to Panera than non-subscribers
  • 30% of subscribers order food with their “free” drink
  • 43% of subscribers were totally new to the brand
  • Coffee subscribers spent up to 11 times more money during 2021 than customers who are not members of Panera’s rewards program

Current coffee subscribers will be grandfathered into the new program at their current $8.99-a-month rate until the end of the year, Burnett said.

The Unlimited Sip Club is available inside Panera’s restaurants and via its website and app. It gives subscribers access to one self-serve beverage every two hours.

When Panera launched its coffee subscription, it signed up about 800,000 participants. But many of those were free trials, CEO Niren Chaudhary said about eight months after its debut. By October 2020, the program had nearly a half million paid subscribers.

“The coffee program has been very successful at a very difficult time during a pandemic,” Chaudhary said at the time. “The program has resonated extremely well with where customers are at … Even when the program was being offered for free a couple of months ago, it was still profit accretive for us. We’re very excited. It’s a program that works for us.”

By expanding the beverage selection, Panera hopes to draw food attachments beyond breakfast, she said.

Panera recently launched Charged Lemonades in novel flavors like Fuji Apple Cranberry, Mango Cirtus Yuzu and Strawberry Lemon Mint, all of which are included in the new subscription program. The drinks provide an energy boost from Guarana and green coffee extract, the chain said.

“They pair well with the Chef’s Chicken Sandwich we just launched,” Burnett said. “It’s a hot-and-hearty sandwich that performs well at lunch and dinner, and performs well with both young adults and males … The natural logical assumption will be that the attachment will be at a higher dollar because they’ll be attaching an entrée. We’ll see how it goes as we roll it out.”

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